Self-actualized, cross-disciplined and surfing the flow of life is how the Integral Man is described according to Spiral Dynamics. How is that step reached? How does life feel when you don’t identify with your subpsychic layers but rather merge them into one, complete being?
How does masculinity change again?
Hello my friend.
Welcome to our last chapter on the journey of manhood. We’ve travelled quite far, haven’t we? I’ve introduced you to a small outlook and quickly we met The Archaic and The Intuitive Man. In discussing Violent and Conventional Masculinity, we may have recognized patterns in ourselves, that significantly influence our subconscious thoughts, if we like it or not. The Achiever Man is the omnipresent man-model of our time and some young folks nowadays stand for green-man values.
So what’s next?
You, my dear reader, may have found all those layers in yourself and recognized their relevance. Welcome to the integral stage. You made a first step into it by becoming distantly aware of your psyche als an amalgamation of different interacting parts of you.
Let’s dive deeper into it.
What causes the shift to the integral stage?
As we’ve discovered in the former article, green mindsets can come with a bunch of pitfalls and downsides like indecisiveness, a weak drive or narcissism. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” As Einstein already knew, solutions can’t be found on the same level as the problem, so stepping aside and taking a higher perspective on the issue provides new approaches.
The problem with green values on a cultural level is, that it mostly defeats the former layer too much. Orange capitalism gets fighted. Red masculine power gets denied. Archaic behavior gets banned.
The opaque colors of the spiral tend to reject the traits of the bright coloured stages and vice versa.
This is not different inside the individual.
But once we recognize the importance and the right to exist of every single stage, we stop defeating them and regard them as inter-relating parts of a bigger system, each with their specific niche and purpose to fulfill.
The opaque coloured stages driven by female energy don’t have to fight the more male energy driven, bright coloured ones anymore and inversely.
It’s like you integrate the second shadow-serpent of the caduceus and begin to see the whole picture.
This goes along with a widened sense of your inner duality as well.
Where you explored your anima in the green stage and focused on softening your behavior and worldview in a feminine-like way, you now watch the masculine-feminine interplay in a distanced manner and adress both of them.
Today, this stage picturing the riped adult is entered in the age of 30+ and began to rise approximately around 1950. (Source)
What does being an integral man feel like?
As you realize, that your current personality actually is a culmination of historical development, your sense of self shifts radically. Something that changes with time and that you can observe can’t actually be your real self, right? This means you must actually be some kind of timeless core self, enduring all the decades and episodes of your life until now.
With this newly gained distanced perspective, your personality now becomes an object, something that can be formed and influenced. You become self-responsible for your feelings and thoughts, what is called by development psychologists self-transforming mind.
This works in two steps:
• You observe and analize your behavior, feelings and thoughts in different situations from outside.
• You actively influence behavior, feelings and thoughts at the very moment to create a smooth, harmonic flow of life.
This generates a constant inter-merging of a receptive, observing mind and conscious small-scale actions. It’s like you’re repairing a complicated engine by choosing specific gears to adjust, where you frequently re-emerge to see the whole picture and re-evaluate your chosen spots again.
Imagine you’re a surgeon, taking small micro-cuts on the body of life with the intention of gaining maximal healing.
With a distanced perspective on your person, life is a game to be played, with experiencable challenges and adventures. But this is not to be confused with the egocentric „I have to win“- mentality. A game is meant to be fun for everyone, right?
Are there parallels to other layers?
The integral perspective can’t really be compared with former layers, nevertheless there are some traits that may remind on other stages.
Since the focus of consciousness lies on the individual person and its actions, an „I“ may be regarded as the centre of power, reminding on the egocentric red layer.
Its expanding nature shows as well similarities to the other bright-colored stage, the orange progressive one. An integral person usually strives for enlarging the conscious accessible areas of the psyche, expanding capabilities and improving life in general. Life is regarded as something to get active on.
What are integral values in general?
As an integral man, your existence is no end in itself. You take an overarching view of living systems and since you actualized a sense of connection and purpose driven by your heart region, your actions shall be beneficial for the whole world, everyone around you and yourself personally. Being egoistic and altruistic at the same time is no contradiction anymore, since the integral perspective sees solutions that serve both. You are interested in long-term solutions coinciding the interests of individuals, organizations and society.
Your ethics of action are always leaving something better than it has been found. You align all your actions according to Kants categorical imperative, so that everyone could follow and copy your behavior that is driven by superordinated principles.
Improving something holistically is so much component of integral values, that chaos and sudden changes are welcomed instead of feared. Failure and sand in the gears are indicators of opportunities of improvement. Whether a company loses some profit or you failed miserably in approaching a girl, the integral mindset is glad about the feedback and intuitively knows what to do better next time. Failure and defeat is seen as opportunity to grow. Heck, you may even catch yourself from going on a hunt for weak spots, just to fix them enthusiastically.
„We learn by doing mistakes.“
Integral masculine principles
Since this series is about masculinity, we’re especially interested in principles, that describe masculine traits in the integral stage. But now, as we’re leaving intra-personal consciousness, we can’t really distinguish between „masculine“ and „feminine“ anymore.
The integral mind transcends the polarity inside the human system, which is responsible for sexual dynamics and therefore the labelling of traits as gender-specific.
But we can take in account, from which „site“ the integral stage is entered by an individual. Women often approach more from the overseeing, intuitive and harmonizing site.
Where women feel intuitively, that clear decisions and bold action are required sometimes, men recognize through experience the emotional and transcendent spheres’ relevance for ones’ personal reality.
Exaggerated relativism and indecisiveness of green-stage values may lead men to reconnect with their natural getting-sh*t-done drive again and go beyond that limitating border. Their approach is more an experimental, active trial- and error one.
Nevertheless let me mention some characteristics typically found in yellow man-personalities:
A man takes full responsibility for all his words and actions. He recognizes himself as the creator of his reality.
Decisions fact and intuition based
For always making the best decisions, a man regards realistic cold facts, individual feelings involved and the greater, “higher” context. This merges into an “integral intuition” hardly explainable to others but with visible results.
Small actions – big impacts
The integral man focuses on the essential. Like a surgeon – or seal team six operator – he wants to gain the biggest impacts with the smallest actions.
Authoritarian, democratic or empathetic leadership-stlye? The integral man selects what suits the current situation best. He wants his fellows to be content and tries to see their needs. Like a good king driven by the vision of a prosperous realm he considers the advice of the wise, providing him with experience and rationality. But being in touch with his violent potential he doesn’t hesitate drawing the sword when circumstances get rough.
Representing clear vision and purpose
In regarding his person as fractalistic part of humanity, his authentic personality shall represent a clear vision and purpose so others understand his role and actions. Whatever he does or says is meant to be in alignment with the path he stands for. Flaws and distortions of the soul are to be approached and resolved, not hidden.
Former contradictions – for example the marriage of science and spirituality – are recognized as what they are: 2 sides of the same medal. For the integral mind, paradoxa are the most natural thing in the world – nothing to get mad about.
The integration of masculine activity-force and feminine guiding spirit unleashes a huge creational drive. A yellow man sees ideas, innovations and enhancements all the time, they are his thoughts’ and actions’ nature.
How does the relationship dynamic change?
Approximately 1% of the human population can be counted as residing mainly in the yellow stage, therefore scientific research to relationship dynamics is rarely to be found. Most of the following is based on own experiences and observations.
Integral oriented men tend to seek stable, committed relationships. This for the first reason, that fitting, complementing partners are rarely to be found and once stumbled upon such a „diamond in the dirt“, it’s obvious that you don’t want to lose it that fast again.
The second reason is, that an integral relationship holds a huge healing capacity for both partners’ souls. Each one represents the others’ mirror, which, embraced in a conscious and loving way, holds potential for finally repairing holes and sub-psychic flaws. This healing process reached by a merging of two partners’ souls takes its time and gets more intense with a deeper committment. It’s therefore only natural, that most integral personalities are damn picky in their chosen partners and decide to stay in long-term committed relationships.
Since an integral man became aware of his own animus – anima polarity, he contributes this power-generating tension to his relationship, where the pattern repeats. A stable relationship then is regarded as an organism itself, with both partners as the ends of the spectrum of male – female energy. This polarity is consciously recognized and practiced as the driving motor of the couple, e.g. with tantric sexuality.
Integral partners both regard themselves as complete persons on their own while at the same time being an inevitable part of the higher relationship-holon.
The fractalistic family
Since you may be able to recognize patterns in patterns in patterns, you begin to regard your family structures in a fractalistic way as well. You recognize, that the tension of polar forces not only depicts the relationship-“We” and the individual animus-anima-“I“-amalgamation, but as well your children. As incorporation of your and your partners genetics, they inherit both your spirits but nevertheless constitute a complete unique being with their own polarity. They will also find complementig partners, establish an unique relationship-organism with emerging descendants and so on. A metaphysical pattern of itself, repeated ’til eternity.
Gone are the days of the purple “continuation of bloodline”, where the patriarchal spirit was domineering uncountable generations in a row. Gone are the days of the ancient masculine vs. feminine battle. The creative Yin-Yang-tension exists now, in every individual, in relationships of every tier, timeless.
What means integrating different perspectives?
Integrating means in the first place seeing and recognizing. The archaic consciousness for example – which isn’t really a perspective but more just existencial being – is predominant when you’ve been sleeping and just woke up, slowly getting aware that you exist separated from your environment.
The purple intuitive layer becomes important when you open all your senses to your surroundings and you intuitively grasp peoples’ personalities and spirits. You may feel it in your stomach when something seems wrong or you catch insiprations and ideas out of the air.
The egocentric perspective of the strong „I“ becomes the leader when you have to make clear black-or-white decisions. When you have to focus determined on a single thing to accomplish and nothing shall distract you. And as well when you’re extremely body-power aware, for example when lifting weights with ferocious willpower.
The blue layer, responsible for conventional thinking, makes you learn about the rules and mechanics of what’s going on around you. For example if you visit a foreign country, you take your time to watch and observe the natives’ behavior. The so derived rules help you to align your outside visible acting with the current norms and societal expectations. Keeping this layer active, you constantly re-adjust your set of rules according to newly gained insights.
The progressive part of you drives you to create stuff, may it be arts, ideas or development plans. This perspective provides you with a time-consciousness of irreversible change, necessary for profoundly stretching boundaries. You take active influence on your physical surroundings or your life circumstances to create a remarkable difference.
Your heart fuels you with the inside-perspective of others and yourself. It enables you to look through the eyes of others to recognize their needs and feelings, which is an inevitable ability to make improvements in a holistic, all-should-benefit way.
During your day, you will recognize that all those perspectives inter-merge with each other and some will be slightly dominating during a period of time.
To approach them in an integrative way means to recognize, that they all influence your behavior, thoughts and feelings and have their specific needs and beliefs. Dogmatic damnation of desires or thoughts isn’t a healthy approach, instead you find ways to satisfy more or less all of them in a pendulum-swing like way.
What does everyday life look like?
An integral man lives life in a balanced way, in every regard. To use his intellect and brainpower is just as important for him as cultivating a healthy lifestyle and nourishing his relationships.
I give you an example:
You may start your day with going for a run outside and a vegetable-rich breakfast, fueling your archaic urge for feeling alive and awake. Arriving at work, you may spend the morning using your blue analizing skills by reading reports or fact sheets. During lunch, you take an extended break to have a deep talk with an employee. Your empathetic senses build up a trusting bond and by revealing his true thoughts and ideas, you recognize, that his creativity would bloom far more in another department. With red determination you boldly decide over the heads of your co-workers, that this guy shall work in the innovation team. You spend the afternoon with him progressively developing visionary action plans that could elevate the whole company to a new level. In the evening, you ritually take some time to meditate, to evaluate if your day was purposeful and to let go of everything occupying your mind.
I for myself take movement-breaks all 30 minutes when doing computer work, I interchange routines like chores with progressive working and learning. Meditating twice a day and exercising is as standard for me as doing fun stuff with the kiddos.
Work has to be purposeful
Integral men don’t occupy specific working fields, but they feel naturally drawn to places where they are needed. They don’t work just to enrichen themselves, but more to contribute to a general improvement, may it be a company or whole society. Integral men are often to be found in politic fields, the management of international companies or in the function of coaches or advisors. Their meta-systemic view on the whole enables them to spot crucial pitfalls and find holistic solutions. They approach problems tactically with tools borrowed from every stage. This being said, a yellow men will mostly seek cross-disciplined fields, where his multi-perspective approach can bloom.
The more diverse daily activities and possibilities, the more content he will feel.
For the integral man, diversity is strength in all regards.
What could be possible pitfalls?
Once you gained a distanced perspective on your personality layers, it can happen that holes and flaws in your development come to surface. If you get confronted with that harsh reality too fast, they can occupy too much attention. Too much fixation on negative gaps and an impatient attempt to repair them can suck you down and block a lot of energy.
The awareness of over-development of specific layers can also impactful shatter your life. Imagine investing 2 decades for establishing yourself as company CEO and building up a luxury life full based on status-relationships, only to discover that this isn’t actually your true path.
Could you handle unexpected shifts of life-changing dimensions?
You will need time and also a lot of courage to get rid of everything that occupies too much space in your life. (Querencia by Jeffrey Erkelens is a great riches-to-rags-to-rebirth saga about existential struggles in ones’ 50s.)
As take-home message I shortly summarise the most important points for you. The Integral Man:
• Recognizes his personality as culmination of historical grown layers
• Consciously influences his behavior, thoughts and feelings
• Lives self-responsibly and self-directed
• Is driven by curiosity and the desire to improve
• Decides according to higher principles
• Considers guts, heart and rationality
• Is aware of system-interrelatedness
• Regards relationships and family as fractalistic organisms
• Cultivates inner and outer balance
Are there more shifts to expect?
Once you fully got rid of inner fixations and defeats – the psychic manifestations of under- or overdevelopment – the complete distance to your person leads to transcendental de-identification and opens the possibility for a higher perspective again. You then will regard yourself as integral part of the universe itself – the gaia-consciousness. Your urge to expand and improve will calm down a bit and resting in deep peace becomes your primary home. Think of the Dalai Lama and his peace-radiating awareness that everything in this universe is in its perfect place.
You maybe also will begin to smile like he does all the time.
But the journey to manhood will end here, my friend, since we’re leaving the body-related consciousness stages. You won’t talk about masculinity anymore. Then you will just call it The Yang.
Have a nice day.
Hi, I’m Ralph. My studies in social anthropology and experience with people with all kinds of backgrounds led me to my work on integral living. I combine Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics and individual states of consciousness to develop whole-picture advice.
This series is a part of my current work on integral masculinity.
Contact me to talk if we should work together or exchange ideas.